Tuesday, March 31, 2009

HB1388 And The Meaning Of Words

Hello Lloyd. Nice to see you drop in. Guess there's nothing much new to plagiarize lately?

Let me back up a moment.

My previous little clip was a critique of a bill recently passed out of the House of Representatives. A bill co-sponsored by Virginia's boy wonder Tom "Terrific" Perriello, HB1388.

A couple of commenters got their panties in a bunch because they have fallen for the talking points and not read the bill for themselves.

Lloyd Snook, an attorney from Charlottesville, even begins his comment with the snide remark, "Didn't read the bill before blogging about it, I guess..."

Yes, James and Lloyd, I did read the bill. Now perhaps you two should go and do likewise. Stop listening to defences of the bill and actually take the time to see what it really says.

Neither Lloyd nor James offer arguments of any substance, just platitudes and talking points.

They both claim that I'm wrong when I say that the bill bans participants from regularly attending church, or teaching in a church youth group, but the bill is quite clear on this point. I would also like to be clear on one point. I am not a lawyer. Don't even claim to be, like Lloyd does.

Here is the actual text from HB1388 (now S277) as passed by the House;
Emphasis added;

`(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:

`(1) Attempting to influence legislation. (No letters to your Congressman, or I suppose, letters to the editor of your local paper.)

`(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes....

And so it goes until it gets to paragraph 7;
`(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.
Both James and Lloyd claim the above applies to the organization receiving funds, not the participant.


Besides the fact that the word participant is plainly used in the above quoted section, the bill itself has a section titled "definitions". In that section there is no official definition for "participant", however the word "participant" is used extensively throughout the bill to describe a citizen volunteer "participating" in this endeavor. Organizations receiving funds are typically referred to in this bill as "Organizations" or "Grant Recipients".

So, I suppose if you're tasked with the rather onerous job of defending this mess you must disregard common English language and its generally accepted use in favor of made up stuff which you've been told to say.

A participant is a participant unless he's an organization, then he's a grant recipient. Give me a break, Lloyd. I may not be a lawyer, but I can read the English language.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tom Perriello's Idea Of Moderate-ism

Jonas Clark, one of the Virginia patriots at UCV, tells us of the requirements for Obama's much vaunted "Volunteer Corp". You remember, he spoke of it so many times during his campaign.

Tom spoke of it often as well, but neither had the courage then, or now, to tell the whole truth of the matter.

Jonas does have the courage to speak of it, but not in the glowing terms you've heard before; He quotes the actual text, as it passed in the House, (with Tom Perriello as Virginia's only Represenative co-sponsoring).
(Italics Jonas')
Section 125 (42 U.S.C. 12575) is amended to read as follows:

(a) Prohibited Activities-A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:

(1) Attempting to influence legislation. (No calling your congressman to tell him/her to vote yes or no)

(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes. (No grassroots organizing, no parades, no protests, no Grassfire.)

(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.
Jonas doesn't tell us this final bit of news, but if you scroll on down the text of the bill, to section 6104, you find that this "Volunteer" group will eventually become required service. Sort of like the draft. Except in the Army you can at least attend the Church of your choice.

Way to go Tom! That's really standing up for true Virginia values. NOT!

SCC and Me. Schedule Conflict

I know. I know. I promised to provide my opinion of the "smoking gun" that was offered yesterday. Sometimes things just don't work out.

This morning I put on a pot of coffee, and nothing happened. Well, not nothing. Something happened, of course. Just what was supposed to happen didn't. The water never got hot and forced its way up that little tube into the nozzle that sprays out over the freshly ground bean fragments, converting them into a damp, dark brown, muddy looking mass while producing a hot pot of morning. Instead, the cold water just sat there. Slowly leaking out onto the counter, an obvious omen that the day would not go according to plan.

I searched through the garage for my old Mr. Coffee backup, as reliable as it is ugly, and tried again. Of course, it worked.

While performing the monthly de-batcherlorization of my kitchen, I spoke again with my SCC friend. He was going to try to fit me in between two other meetings today, one early this morning, the second at 3:00pm at a location almost 3 hours from here.

It couldn't happen. If he made the one hour detour by my house, he would be almost 2 hours late for his second meeting. Can't have that.

We'll try again in the coming days, and once again, I promise. You'll be the first to know.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Frederick Kerfuffle Part Deux

Just got off the phone, about an hour or so ago, with a member of the SCC.

It was an interesting conversation, as conversations with this individual usually are. This SCC member is understandably concerned with my position, as stated below, on the Jeff Frederick kerfuffle. (Yes, I'm going to continue to call it a kerfuffle. For now.)

I told my friendly neighborhood SCC member that I too was disappointed. This whole episode has been badly handled from the beginning. Not by that particular SCC member, who is known for handling things well, but by just about everyone else involved.

See, the problem is, most everyone who paid real dollars to travel to Richmond last year, and real dollars to stay at that really nice hotel across the street from the convention, and even more real dollars for food and drink while they were there in support of Jeff Frederick came back from that convention well pleased that their guy had won.

Almost immediately they began to hear rumbles and non-specific gripes from their party elders who had supported Lt. Governor Hager. Some had even been pressured by those same party elders to change their mind at the last minute to vote for Hager.

By the time of the Advance, in December, those rumbles had grown to a dull roar. Yet still there were no specific charges against Chairman Frederick. Just complaints from those whose guy had lost many months before.

Now we come to the point, a few weeks ago, where news reports began leaking that the SCC had decided it was time for Jeff to go. He had been asked to resign, had been told that if he didn't he would be removed in April. But still no specific charges were put forth to the people who had elected him. It still looked to those good people as if the party elders, who had been griping incessantly, were about to exercise their muscle. Strongarm style.

Finally someone had the good sense to release the specific charges to the press. Now the people could at least decide if their party elders were exercising muscle or brain. With Chairman Frederick's release of his response to the charges, one by one, it seemed to most that there was much more muscle than brain at work on the SCC.

Still, as I explained to my SCC member, I knew the SCC had more information than I did. They knew more about the actual situation than the grassroots members knew. But they were not forthcoming with it. For fear of "bad press" I was told, on more than one occasion. By more than one "insider".

My God, how much worse could the press get?

Speaking of bad press, the reply, from some un-named SCC member, to John Gizzi that no thought whatsoever had been given to a possible replacement, was enough for me.

But not yet. Not quite. I've maintained an open mind on this episode this far, I'll keep it open a few more hours. My SCC contact will be visiting me in the morning for coffee. He has what he calls the smoking gun. He has permission to show it, let people read it, let them absorb it, but they cannot copy it.

Fair enough. I'll look at it. I'll absorb it. I'll treat my friend to a cup of great Honduras Coffee and we'll talk about it.

You'll be the first to know.

Jeff Frederick Kerfuffle*

I've stayed out of this until now, but the following quote seals it for me;

"No one yet. We haven’t thought it through that far. Right now, getting Frederick out is the main idea."

Sorry, but if that's the "plan" of the SCC, I just ain't gonna go along with it.

I've read the charges. I've read the responses to those charges by Chairman Frederick. I'm reminded of two modern quotes;
"there's no 'there' there." Gertrude Stein


"We have met the enemy and he is us." Walt Kelly, via Pogo
*Kerfuffle; (Noun)1.- a noisy and disorderly incident

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Newspapers: Shall We Play The Requiem Now?

By Barnie Day; Another Guest Shot From Meadows of Dan

Not just yet. Let’s at least have a national debate before we bury this one.

The cataclysmic demise is well documented. Going forward, the question is: Is there a model that (1) acknowledges and accommodates the current reality and (2) preserves the critical role of a free and independent press?

There might be—a national newspaper trust that could purchase these faltering papers. (If there is an upside to an 83% devaluation in newspaper stocks in 2008, it is the creation of an incredible buyers' market.)

Sure to God, if such a structure can save swamps, farmland, old buildings, artifacts of importance, odd plant life, long-eared rodents, queer little birds, and a host of other good and worthy considerations, such a thing could be established to preserve an entity that is so very crucial to policy, to government, to Democracy, to our collective well-being, as independent newspapers are.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the industry can save itself. Newspapers are cannibalizing themselves by giving their content to the Internet, and if that’s not bad enough, they’re slashing the only real competitive advantage they have—their reporters, writers and editors. Seems an odd survival strategy, if you ask me.

If newspapers are to survive, then retro, or old school, journalism relieved of profit pressure by trust ownership and subsidy may be the model.

How to fund such a trust? Three ways:

1) A national newspaper lottery would generate significant proceeds. Although 42 states and one or two territories conduct lotteries of some sort, there is no national lottery in the U. S. Lotteries are a form of taxation, but as Jefferson pointed out, the fairest form of taxation in that the burden is laid “only upon the backs of the willing.” This burden would be a worthy one.

2) A voluntary one-dollar check-off contribution on federal income tax returns would raise significant money, too—and give taxpayers a direct voice in how at least some of their money is spent. It wouldn’t be complicated. They could say “yes” or “no” simply by checking or not checking the box. It’s a pity we don’t have more such direct opportunities to say “yes” or “no” with a lot of other spending.

I know the "government" argument. It makes some folks queasy. It does me sometimes, but the granting of tax-exempt status and playing the role of mere pass-through collection/disbursement agent for a lottery and for income tax check-off falls short of "government sponsorship of newspapers."

A national trust would, in fact, come closer to vesting ownership with that teeming miasma otherwise known as "the people"—a good thing, in my opinion—than any other arrangement I presently know of, far closer than family and/or corporate ownership (think Rupert Murdoch) does now.

3) The largest consumer, and beneficiary, of newspapers in the world has to be Google, which means Google, and other search engines, have the most to lose if (when) the newspaper industry collapses. It is an interesting paradox: the primary instrument of newspaper destruction has the most to lose. The implication is that they must dance together.

Google doesn't pay for newspapers' proprietary content, although it does pay the Associated Press under a contract negotiated in 2006.

Let's consider the numbers.

Google performs approximately 235 million searches per day. If ten percent of these searches referenced newspaper print, and if Google agreed to contribute one penny ( 1 cent) for each of these to a national trust, the annual contribution would exceed $85 million. Can Google afford this? Yes. They earned $1.21 BILLION just during the last 90 days of 2008 alone. (I won’t even point out that Google could write such a contribution off as a tax deduction.)

Why propose this? What does it matter? That's the easy one. It is in our national interest that newspapers survive.

Barnie Day is a banker in Stuart, Virginia

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How To Outspend History In One Short Lesson

Somewhere today I read that Senator McConnell (R-Ky.) has come up with a novel way to explain just how much President Obama and the Democratic Congress has spent in the first 50 days of this administration. His math was pretty straight-forward, coming to roughly 1 billion, (with a "b"), dollars per day.

1,000,000,000.00 Dollars. Every day. For 50 days. Less than two Months.

But that number is still out of reach for most of us to understand.

Let me see if I can bring it into a more readily digested form. Let's suppose, for a moment, that you were there in Bethlehem a little over 2000 years ago when Christ was born.

Now let's suppose that your way to celebrate this great occasion was to begin handing out 20 dollar bills. There were no cigars to hand out at that time, so a paper portrait of Andy Jackson will have to do. (Never mind that there were no 20 dollar bills 2000 years ago either. We're supposin', remember?)

When you're standing on a corner handing out 20 dollar bills, word gets out pretty quick. A line forms. Soon you are handing out 20 dollar bills at a rapid clip --about one per second-- $1200 bucks per hour. I know some lawyers, a few bankers, a preacher or two, and some doctors, but I don't know anyone who makes $1200 bucks an hour.

Anyway. You stand there. Handing out your 20 dollar bills as fast as you can. People file past and collect their 20 bucks and shuffle on their way. You continue to do this until you've spent your own 1.2 trillion dollars. (I know, you don't have 1.2 trillion dollars. Obama and Congress don't either, but that didn't stop them. Did it?)

You finally exhaust your pile of Jacksons about the time that Obama is elected.

Over two thousand years. At 20 bucks per second. Twelve hundred bucks an hour. I know some lawyers, a few bankers, a preacher or two, and some doctors, but I still don't know anyone who makes $1200 bucks an hour. But I know of some folks who can spend it way faster than that.

This exercise, by necessity, is an estimate only. For the first 1500 years or so you will run out of people in the world before you run out of seconds in the year.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest Author Barnie Day; Spring Post

Boss Bird Is Back In Town

By Barnie Day

HEADWATERS OF THE DAN—The kingfisher kept his word and came back yesterday. He left out in mid-October—probably to South America. I don’t know for sure. He keeps his secrets, too.

I was on our back patio, watching the sun come streaking and flaring over the mountains, and he announced his return from his favorite perch, a maple limb that hangs out over our pond. He is an exuberant, raucous male in his flashy prime.

This is his sixth trip back. I don’t know that he’s the same bird, but he says he is. He doesn’t strike me as a liar.

He is always first, always early. There are still slips of snow in fence corners and along the line of trees that flank our driveway. The willow tree is barely budding. The frogs still sleep.

Other water birds come and show proprietary interest—ducks, herons, cranes, plovers, pipers, egrets. Big geese glide in, flaps down, honking loud enough to
wake the dead, and slalom the water as if wearing skis.

In mid-summer, an osprey, heavy enough to sway the pine boughs back and forth, will come to fish—and bicker back and forth with the shrieking crows, and other water dwellers—beavers and muskrats, lizards and water snakes, booming, bellowing bullfrogs—will show themselves—but the kingfisher gets dibs on this pond. He always does.

The Dan is birthed from a clear, cold fissure spring in a swampy place half a mile distant, ponding on my neighbor’s place, then on ours. From here, it meanders back and forth across the Virginia-North Carolina border for maybe a hundred and fifty miles until it joins the Roanoke River and disappears into
Kerr Lake Reservoir, a 50,000-acre Corps of Engineers flood control and hydroelectric impoundment built in the 1950s—a place better known as Bugg’s Island.

This bird is mouthy. He screeches and clacks. He fluffs himself. He buffs his beak against the maple limb. Boss bird is back in town.

I know his exuberance—to splash your face in a spring that is a river’s origin gives rise to such—but I know, too, that he doesn’t preen and brag for me.

A mate is somewhere near. I haven’t seen her yet, but I know that she is here. No doubt, he is promising her the moon. She will settle for something less—a
tunnel dug into the bank across the pond from where I stand, a six-to-eight foot tunnel, and at the end of it, a cubbyhole nesting room.

No, they won’t peck it out—they will dig—more a dance—it with their feet. They bring tiny shovels. The middle toes on each of their feet grow together and
make small scoops just for this. They will raise a small brood of chicks on insects, small fish, and other aquatic life.

In all, there are maybe ninety species of kingfishers spread across three families—Alcedinidae (river), Halcyonidae (tree), and Cerylidae (water) and scattered in woodland and water habitats throughout the world.

This is a Belted Kingfisher, the most common in North America—and here in Meadows of Dan—if you can call such an exquisite creature “common.”

(Photo Credit / Wikipedia)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

First Patrick, Now It's Augusta County...

Back in January there was quite a dust-up in neighboring Patrick County regarding the new property tax assessments. Everyone thought the new values were unfair, but most importantly, everyone was terribly upset over the impact this had on their tax bill. It's long past time for Virginians to learn just what the relationship really is between their property assessment and their tax bill. I am re-publishing my January article, with Augusta County now standing in the role of aggrieved county.

H/T to SWAC Girl and Yankee Phillip

Augusta Patrick County citizens are up in arms over their latest property assessments. Well, to be a bit more accurate, they are upset over their latest property tax bill. This time of year that is a fairly common complaint all across Virginia. This year it's Augusta Patrick County, next year it may be Henrico. Or perhaps Suffolk. Or any of Virginia's other counties. What the good people of Augusta Patrick County do not know, and I'll wager most Virginians do not know either, is that their new re-assessment did not cause their property tax bill to shoot through the roof.

Yes, I meant what I wrote. Your increased assessment did not cause your property tax to increase. Your Board of Supervisors caused that increase.

The Code of Virginia, (that great big book with all of Virginia's many laws listed in an orderly manner), makes it clear. Any new assessment that causes a tax bill increase of more than 1% requires, yes, requires, a reduction in the tax rate. A rate reduction that will bring all tax bills back into that 1% range.

What the Code of Virginia does not require is that the new tax remain at the reduced rate. Read that again. The new tax does not have to remain at it's legally required lower rate.

My neighbors in Augusta Patrick County; Your tax rate went up, not because of your new assessment, but because your Board of Supervisors cannot control their spending.

I'm sure if you go back and look at the minutes of your Board of Supervisors meetings you will find the quick, quiet, probably unanimous vote to roll back your tax rate. A roll back that brought your tax bill within the legal 1% increase range.

Further searches through those minutes will reveal a vote, equally quick and quiet, unanimous or not, that immediately raised that rate to where it is now.

These two votes could have even occurred during the same meeting. They may have even been concurrent votes. Or even a vote on a single motion to both lower and raise the rate. All the law requires is that the rate be lowered.

Oh, to be sure, there is a requirement that all this be explained on your tax bill. And I'll bet it is. But is it explained in a manner that you can follow and understand? Not likely. Otherwise you guys would not be so upset about your assessment. Or nearly so mad at your idiot assessor.

As a former Delegate, Barnie Day, recently stated in an Op-Ed in the Martinsville Bulletin;
Most of the rage, consternation and anguish brought about by the recent real property reassessments is misdirected.

The state does not establish the value of our real estate. The county does not — nor does the town council, the farm bureau, the Boy Scouts, etc.

Simply put, the marketplace sets this value — the marketplace and nothing else. It is a hypothetical expression of what a willing buyer would likely give a willing seller, as determined by the best evidence available — comparable sales, best estimates and so on.
The guy who assessed your property most likely got it right. Or at least very close. He or she has no reason to do otherwise, and many reasons not to get it wrong. As licensed, regulated professionals their work is based upon the marketplace, experience, research, and again, the marketplace.

I suggest you ask your Supervisor about this. Ask him why the board can't restrain its spending. Ask him why the explanation is not more clearly explained on your bill.

Just don't go on blaming the wrong guy. Your assessor didn't do it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

John Brownlee, My Choice For Virginia's Next Attorney General

In 2001-2002 John Brownlee, at the time U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, prosecuted my Board of Supervisors member from Buchanan County. Yes, my BOS member. The one I voted for. The one I worked to get elected.

But that's OK. He deserved it. He had violated not only the law, but the trust of the people of north-western Buchanan County. He was convicted and, I think, is still serving his time.

In 2005 I moved back to my original home County of Henry. John Brownlee, then still U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, prosecuted my Sheriff. No, I didn't have an opportunity to vote for, or work for, that Sheriff. But I would have if I had lived here during his campaign.

But that's OK. He deserved it. He had violated not only the law, but the trust of the people of Henry County. He was convicted and has since served his time.

Even after that history, or more accurately, perhaps, because of it, I am proud to be a 9th District delegate to the Republican Convention for John Brownlee for Attorney General.

John Brownlee has proven his commitment to the Rule of Law. His entire life has been committed to the preservation of our American way of life, our freedom, and our honor.

In my classroom I teach my students to stand for truth and do what is right, I expect my government to do the same. I know from experience that John Brownlee will take that same commitment to the Attorney General's office.

Our country needs the direction and forethought of experienced and caring public servants who have been tested and proven. Our Commonwealth needs the trust and experience of a dedicated, and yes, tested and proven, prosecuting attorney to protect the heritage and the future of that Commonwealth. As Republicans, we are truly blessed to have three very good candidates working to gain the nomination for Attorney General. One stands out in that group. As Virginians, we will be equally blessed to have as Attorney General former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee.

A former Army Ranger, John Brownlee has long been dedicated to supporting and defending our country. As U.S. Attorney, John worked tirelessly to defend and protect Virginian values. As the only Veteran, as well as the only prosecuting attorney running for Attorney General, Virginia cannot afford to make any other choice. John Brownlee has my enthusiastic support and I encourage all delegates to the Virginia Republican Convention to cast their vote for John Brownlee.

Is Timmy! A Liar? Is Jody A Liar? Someone's Pants On Fire!

Back on November 12, right here in SWVA, WDBJ 7 reported that Governor Tim Kaine simply would not take a cabinet appointment from then President-elect Barack Obama. He was adamant that Virginia's Republican Lt. Governor was not even a part of the decision. Kaine was quoted;
It’s not turning the keys over to Bill Bolling that worries me. It’s that I took an oath to be here for my whole term, and that’s what I’ve done, and I’ve actually communicated that to the President-elect already. We had talked about it a number of weeks back, but we’ve communicated since the election and I’ve made that plain.[LINK]
Now we have Democrat Lt. Governor candidate Jody Wagner claiming that Timmy! just didn't mean that. She knows his heart, apparently. Ms. Wagner says;
If we had a Lt. Governor today that was a Democrat, Governor Kaine would have taken a position in the Obama administration...
Thanks to my friend Jim Riley for bringing this to our attention. Jim has a few questions for Ms. Wagner and Gov. Timmy! at Virginia Virtucon. He also has this video, after watching it I suppose many of us will have questions for both Wagner and Kaine;